The coolest mom ever?
Pam Robinson lost her son Aaron to a snowboarding accident. He was riding in Chile, sent it a little bit wrong and tumbled on to some rocks. He died. It was horrible and everyone in the snowboard community lost it. If you knew Aaron, you loved him. If you didn’t, you wished you did.
I never met him. It’s one of the things I regret most about my career in the snowboard industry. And after spending one day at Alpental for the 2018 Smash Life Banked Slalom, where I had the pleasure of interacting with the woman who brought him into the world and raised him to be the amazing young soul he became, I’m sure I missed out. But with just a few hugs from Pam on January 7th, 2018, I can move past it, because I’m happy to say, all of my faith in humanity has been restored.
Rip it, don’t slip it!
The Smash Life Banked Slalom is in its seventh year and serves as a qualifier for the Legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom. But even though there are awards and winners, it is definitely not a contest. At its root, it’s a fundraiser for the kids. In this case, it’s Pam’s “kids,” who come from broken homes and tragic situations. Kids who live in poverty and have struggles most snowboarders will never know or experience. Snowboarding is a world of privilege and these kids weren’t born into it. They didn’t have ski bum parents or a mom like Pam. But thanks to the 150 riders who paid the $100 entry fee, and sponsors such as K2, Burton, Traeger Grills and more, they have a chance to go snowboarding.
Khai B does something weird with her hands.
The A Rob Plant a Seed project works like this: Pam “sponsors” kids for three years, and it costs $200 a year, all raised via donations and these events. The kids get a seasons pass, a full snowboard set up (top of the line, new, nice snowboard gear too) and instruction. She also gives them love and support and a positive, smiling, pink-haired mother figure willing to do anything she can to put a smile on their face. At the end of the three years, the kids get a choice. Keep snowboarding or “quit and play basketball or something.” Her words, not mine. Because Pam will dish out the tough love when that tough love is needed. And that is why she may be one of the most amazing moms I’ve ever met. And I say that as a person who was truly blessed with an amazing mom myself.
Pam and some of her adopted children
While I’m on my favorite subject (me); I have had every advantage. I had skis put on my feet before I was old enough to walk. I got a snowboard at 13 years old because that’s what I wanted. I got an AOL account on my Pentium 386 as soon as the first CD Roms started popping up in mail boxes across America. I got my first seasons pass at 5 and my first free snowboard at 15. I started this website and my dad paid the bills on it until I graduated from college with no debt. I’m lucky.
But I’m also smart and I work my ass off. But now, 20-plus years later, I feel an overwhelming amount of love and support from the snowboard industry, and especially the community built around Aaron Robinson’s legacy. It’s probably why after I struggled (probably not as hard as some of the other competitors thanks to my Arbor Shreddy Krueger and it’s Cadillac-style stability and go-get-em) through the avalanche debris ice moguls that made up the traverse to the top of the course, whooped and hollered and put my arms up in two fists of glory, everyone cheered. And why, when I spazzily walked the wrong way across the course to get into the start gate, Joe Pope pushed me out the way gently. Not because he was mad or hungover, but because he didn’t want me to get hurt (or screw up the timing system.) And it’s also why when he did role call for the “Golden Girls” category and almost no one was there, he let me ride in place of Janette Wescott. He also coached me on where to pick up speed and gave me a pep talk for the ages.
The open women’s division was a bit more competitive
My competition did the same.
The other golden girl, Jamie Klontz introduced herself quickly and said, “I’m so glad you decided to ride! I’m going to push it so much harder now.” I felt obligated to tell her I was actually 36, and technically sandbagged the race, but she laughed and said, “Whatever! I really am stoked to have someone else in my division.”
It’s me! Photo: Kieth Rutherford
Everyone I saw later slapped me a high five and told me how fast I looked, then assured me I’d won the race. And I didn’t really doubt it – I am fast and good at snowboarding, and much like the 90s competitions on which I built my impressive snowboarding resume, the field wasn’t that deep. But it didn’t matter to me. I was already happy and fulfilled.
That is, until I saw the handmade trophies Dillon Candelaria made from felled Montana birch trees and hand-harvested gems. And heard the passionate speeches, first from Pam and then from event organizer Shane Stalling. At the moment that I was called on stage to collect my K2 Snowboard and piece of art, I felt something I haven’t felt in years. The joy of victory. No agony, no pain, just the simple fact that it feels fucking good to win something for a change. And I understand why people wanna do it.
Todd Kirby and I live parallel lives. So when I win, he wins! DUH
As far as the rest of the winners and losers go, you can find them here. If you want to be part of the next Smash Life Banked Slalom it’s going down at Lost Trail in Montana January 21-22nd and you should sign up here. You also can and should donate to Pam Robinson’s cause and and the ARob plant a seed project ($200 sponsors a child for one season – you can find out how here. If you wanna read about how the course was and why Shane Stalling is everyone’s favorite uncle, check out the Snowboard Journal. And you should definitely go ride Alpental sometime, that place is amazing.
For the record, I donated the snowboard I won back to the cause and I’m sure it will go to someone who needs it, but it looked sick and huge thanks are owed to K2 for donating it in the first place.